14 specific tips for winter camping

If you want to go camping in winter, but don't have the experience. This article will give you a dozen tips for camping in winter.

  • Eat food for warmth: Your body generates heat as it digests food, so if you're feeling cold, try eating some food. Before you go to bed, have a little snack to keep your metabolism going and keep a candy bar nearby if you get cold in the middle of the night.
  • Add even more ground insulation: Put your waterproof layers between your two sleeping pads to add a little extra insulation from the cold ground.
  • Use your foam pad for more than sleeping: Use your foam sleeping pad to sit or stand on while you're cooking. It helps you stay a little warmer and drier.
  • Fill floor space in your tent: A bunch of empty floor space inside your tent will make it hard to warm up the interior space. Bring your backpack and other gear inside (avoid sharp items that could rip your tent, like crampons and axes) and place it around you on the floor of your tent to act as insulation against the cold ground.
  • Exercise before bed: Crawling into your sleeping bag cold is a sure way to shiver all night long. Do 50 jumping jacks, jog in place or chase your friends around camp. When your heart is pumping and you're feeling warm, get in your sleeping bag and zip it up tight.
  • Go pee when you need to: By emptying your bladder, your body needs to use a little less energy to stay warm. If the idea of getting out of your toasty warm sleeping bag in the middle of the night seems unbearable, use a pee bottle. Women can use a pee funnel to go into the bottle.
  • Fill a bottle with hot water: Create a little heater that will last long into the night by boiling a liter of water and pouring it into your hard-plastic water bottle (don't use a metal bottle—it will get too hot). Screw the lid tight, make sure it doesn't leak and toss it in your sleeping bag. Holding the bottle close to your tummy or between your legs will really heat you up, but be careful—the bottle will initially be quite hot.
  • Keep your boots inside: Bringing your boots inside your tent will keep them a few degrees warmer than if you leave them outside. This will make them a bit more pleasant to put on in the morning. If your boots have removable liners, keep them warm at night by putting them in your sleeping bag. The same is true for socks and boot insoles.
  • Sleep in clean clothes: Over time, body oils, sweat and dirt can rob your sleeping bag of its insulating power. Change into clean long underwear and socks for sleep.
  • Use your body as a dryer: If your gloves or socks get wet, put them on top of your base layer on your shoulders, in your armpits or tucked into your pants' waistband where your body heat will dry them. 
  • Stow your bottles upside down: Water freezes from the top down, so by stowing bottles upside down, the bottle tops are less likely to freeze shut. Just make sure your bottles' lids are screwed on correctly and won't leak.
  • Start out with your batteries fully charged: Winter nights are long, so make sure your headlamp, GPS and cell phone batteries are new or fully charged before an excursion and always take extras. Lithium batteries perform well in cold weather, but they can overpower some devices like headlamps (check your product's manual for compatibility). Alkaline batteries should work on any device, but they drain at a faster rate.
  • Keep electronics warm: Cold temps can zap battery power. When not in use, stow things like your headlamp, cell phone, GPS and extra batteries in your sleeping bag or a jacket pocket close to your body.
  • Secure your camp: Before you leave your camp for the day or go to sleep at night, make sure that anything that could easily be blown away or buried by snow is put away and secure. Prop your skis or snowshoes upright so they won't disappear under a blanket of snow and make sure things like your stove, shovel and water bottles are put away where you can find them.